When beginning an MBA application, many candidates jump right into the essay portion, without much consideration of the part one of the application (what we like to call the “data form”). What they often find out the hard way is that the data form takes a substantial amount of time, and they are left scrambling at the last minute to finish it.

The data form is more than simply filling out your basic information. There are often challenging short answers buried within it, such as “What was your most significant accomplishment?” or “What are your immediate post-MBA goals?” These are questions are to be taken as seriously as the full length essays.

For this reason, we recommend tackling the data form (or at least reviewing it thoroughly) before diving headfirst into essay-writing. It will ensure you’re being strategic about your content for the entire application package, and that you don’t waste precious essay real estate on topics that you’ll already be telling them in your short answers.

(Note: pay attention to whether the short answers have character limits vs. word limits. You’d be surprised how many people miss this in their initial drafts.)

Thus, give the data form your full attention and a few days to complete. While you may feel that the employment section is repetitive with your resume, that’s ok—respond in that same level of detail. (You can even use the same wording.) Remember, these sections provide their first impressions and a critical snapshot of you: what you’ve accomplished or been challenged by in each job, defining moments in your career, honors, community work, extracurriculars, travel, even special talents and interests. At the end of the data form, you’ll have hopefully shown yourself as an accomplished and multi-faceted individual, and set the stage for a great set of essays to follow.

[For strategic advisement on your business school applications, or for general MBA admissions advice, contact us at info@shineadmissions.com]

© Shine/ MBA Admissions Consulting, November 24, 2014, 11:30am MT